Michelle Argento doesn’t consider herself particularly organized _ she describes herself as “Type B.” But when it comes to Christmas shopping, she’s focused, efficient and disciplined.
How focused? She was done with her holiday shopping in mid-October.
Friday is the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season and this year’s late celebration of Thanksgiving means there will be six fewer days than last year between Black Friday and Christmas. That fact prompted stores to offer discounts very early, particularly as more consumers make their holiday purchases online. This year, Walmart launched holiday deals Oct. 25, its earliest date ever, and Target had a Black Friday preview sale Nov. 8-9.
But for Argento and early birds like her, the Black Friday kickoff is irrelevant.
For the past five years, Argento, who lives in Bradley, Ill., and has a 4-year-old daughter, has begun her shopping in August and completed it in October. She browses Facebook shopping groups that regularly notify her of sales and discounts on items on her list. One win: an American Girl Doll at one-third of the suggested retail price.
The idea of braving the crowds on Black Friday “sounds like a nightmare,” she said. Instead, Argento plans to spend Friday sleeping.
Retail watchers expect 114.6 million consumers to shop online and in stores on Friday, down 1.5% percent, from last year. It’s still expected to be the busiest shopping day of the long weekend, according to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.
On Thanksgiving, 39.6 million people are expected to shop, but that will be overshadowed by Cyber Monday, when 68.7 million people are expected to open their wallets, the trade group said.
Holiday retail sales in November and December will rise 3.8% to 4.2% from last year, to as much as $730.7 billion, the trade group said. Deloitte estimated shoppers on average will spend about $415 during the Thanksgiving weekend.
The last time Black Friday was the biggest shopping day of the year was in 2016, according to Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners. “Black Friday does not have the importance it once had,” he said.
Argento, who describes herself as a skilled and thoughtful gift-giver, said she always keeps an eye out for birthday and holiday gifts she can shower on her family, friends and co-workers. She uses a holiday shopping app called Santa’s Bag to help her stick to her budget of $750 to $800.
“Holiday gifting is my time to shine,” she said.
As a result, all that remains on her shopping list are some gifts she plans to make — except for a Nintendo Switch, but it hasn’t been discounted enough for her yet.
Shopping early doesn’t always mean saving more, according to Rod Sides, vice chairman and U.S. retail sector leader at Deloitte, who co-authored the firm’s pre-Thanksgiving shopping survey. “We know that those who start earlier generally spend more,” he said.
Taking advantage of early online deals _ in large part by spying them on social media _ is how Jessica Salasek, of Naperville, Ill., wrapped up her holiday shopping weeks ago.
The mother of two made her list of gifts to buy family and friends in September and frequently checked a Facebook group called “Deals for Moms.” With a budget of roughly $40 to $50 per family member, and gifts from Santa to buy, Salasek noticed the deals coming early and was able to check everything off her list quickly.
She found good discounts on Hasbro’s Operation game and a Fujifilm Instax camera with accessories for her daughter.
Jamie Dougherty, of Downers Grove, Ill., likens her success at getting her shopping done earlier this month to the same planning-ahead mentality that comes with having three children under age 7. “This is the same part of my personality that does meal planning,” she said.
She doesn’t begrudge others their tradition-filled shopping experiences, but said if she’s busy surfing Amazon, she’s not paying attention to the stack of Christmas books she wants to read to her kids or making Christmas cookies.
And like other thrifty, organized early birds, she doesn’t crave the excitement that comes with scoring a Black Friday deal. “No deal is worth getting up at 4:30,” Dougherty said.